After having your period for years, you think you’ve got a handle on this caper by now, right?
Well maybe not.
Many women choose to use tampons when Aunt Flo comes to town. But do you remember all the dos and don’ts that go along with tampon use, or have you become a bit complacent? Yeah, there are instructions that come with every box of tampons, but have you actually read the small print lately?
Tampons are preferred by many women as the more convenient option to deal with that time of the month. Pads, cups and whatever else is the fashion of the moment aren’t always as convenient to use as a tampon. I mean you can go swimming and horseback riding and wear white clothing without fear of leakage while wearing a tampon, if all the ads from Dolly magazine in my youth are anything to go by.
But the humble tampon can actually pose a range of health risks if you’re not using it properly, from vaginal infections right through to the potentially deadly, Toxic Shock Syndrome.
So here’s a refresher (or maybe some of it is brand new information) on what you shouldn’t be doing with your tampon, so you can stay healthy.
1. Not washing your hands.
You need to wash your hands BEFORE and AFTER inserting a tampon. The before part is just as important as after: you don’t want germs from your hands to contaminate the tampon and go inside you.
2. Not inserting the tampon far enough.
If your tampon is uncomfortable, this is one of the reasons why. If it’s not far enough inside you, you’ll feel it at the entry to your vagina. You shouldn’t be able to feel a properly-inserted tampon.
3. You don’t change it often enough.
You are supposed to change your tampon every four to eight hours to prevent toxic shock syndrome – even if your period is light. Some women leave theirs in for an entire day, and are playing Russian roulette with their health.
4. Not changing it after you wee.
There’s no medical reason to change it every time you have a pee, but you’re leaving a soaking wet string hanging down there otherwise, which is gross.
5. Not changing it after you poop.
Did you know that moving your bowels can actually dislodge your tampon and make it uncomfortable? Also, the string can pick up any bacteria from your rear, which can then infect the urethra.
6. Not changing it after swimming.
If you go in the pool, your tampon string does too. The same applies if you’ve jumped into a hot tub, gone swimming in the ocean, a lake or a river. Whatever is in the water you’ve been in is going to be on your tampon string. Think chlorine, salt water and other stuff.
7. You forget to take it out.
Not just something that happens in nightmares, this can happen in real life. If you develop a horrible odour emanating from down there that you can’t otherwise explain, you might have a tampon that you’ve forgotten about. Using a clean finger, have a feel to see if there is one there. If you can’t pull it out yourself, you’ll need to see a doctor to do it.
8. Wearing two tampons at a time.
Some women swear that using two tampons at once is the best way to deal with a particularly heavy period. Using two tampons at once actually increases the likelihood you’ll lose a string or forget about one lurking up there. A better solution is to change to a higher-absorbency tampon. Or if you’re already using the heavy duty ones and they aren’t coping with the flow, you should probably see a doctor to make sure there isn’t something more serious going on.
9. Using a tampon the day after your period ends.
Some women pop one in that day “just in case”. But the reality is a dry bit of cotton inside a dry vagina is pretty uncomfortable.
10. Using a tampon to plug discharge.
Tampons are meant to absorb menstrual blood. Nothing else! Experiencing discharge from your vagina in the middle of your cycle is normal. Using a tampon to absorb it could mess with the natural acidity of your vagina and that can cause an infection. Try using a panty-liner instead. And if you feel like you’re producing way too much discharge, go see a doctor.
11. Using a tampon with a torn wrapper.
Tampon wrappers are kind of important. They protect the tampon from the dust, dirt, makeup bits and other random stuff that lives at the bottom of your handbag and other places a tampon might end up before use. If the wrapper rips, little bits of crud that don’t belong inside your vagina might become attached to the tampon.